On the field of battle, there were two opponents surging and leaping towards one another. A twenty three year old martial artist from a cadet branch of the Sima Clan; and a twenty six year old martial artist from the Liu Family, an auxiliary of the Helian Clan.
The qi and blood of these two people were full of vigor. Their struggle was extremely intense: calm as a deep pool, yet whose martial arts were like lightning. Their punches were thunderous — dodging and clashing, their figures flickering, with the sounds of the very air exploding between the two launching at one another.
Suddenly, one of them aggressively pushed forward with the power of a thunderclap, each strike revealing an even higher level of strategy. The other martial artist repeatedly drew back, as if he was continuously repressed. He was already pushed to the edge of the battlefield; if this persisted, he would undoubtedly be struck out of bounds. It looked like he could only admit defeat.
However, when the first martial artist's face revealed his complacency, the suppressed martial artist suddenly undulated his waist and his whole body looked like a vicious serpent. With unparalleled flexibility, he moved like a long whip in a horizontal strike!
In a moment, his hands were like the wind and his palm strikes rapidly struck his opponent's flank. All at once, the flurry of hits forced the other back over three meters!
However, this martial artist didn't stop his attack. His foot pushed against the floor and dashed at high speed. Then, two palms crashed together from the left and right — there was a rush of dampened sounds. The martial artist being pummeled already had his head blown to pieces by the strength of those palm strikes!
In a split second, Gu Zuo's complexion turned deathly pale.
Killed, killed. He murdered him!
Although he was far away, it seemed like he could smell the stench of blood. A feeling of wanting to vomit came to mind. An intense dread rose from the bottom of his heart.
To go so far as to murder! How could he kill someone? Couldn't he surrender?!
Gu Zuo trembled faintly.
From Qi Tianyou's memories, he knew that this was a world dominated by martial arts. He also knew that human life wasn't worth much. But when he watched an actual living person beaten to death in front of him, his head smashed to pieces, he realized that only knowing was totally inadequate.
With this kind of terror, Gu Zuo turned his head away. He didn't want to watch anymore.
His pulse was through the roof, which quickly made him panic.
Right at this time, two hands lightly cupped his face. Regardless of his refusal, those hands turned his head back to face the front.
Gongyi Tianheng's voice echoed next to his ear: “Ah Zuo, watch carefully.”
Although his tone was still gentle, although the words he just spoke had not changed, Gu Zuo couldn't help but shiver.
He turned his head to take a glimpse of his patron. He discovered that while his face still carried a smiling expression, it also held a cannot-be-refused kind of feeling.
Gu Zuo: So, this is a modest, negotiating n.o.bleman of benevolence? My patron's too scary!
He originally felt that his patron was very fierce and admirable; now he didn't know why it changed to reverence.
He just felt that if he didn't obey, then he would be very unlucky…
Struggling was useless. Tianheng continued to make Gu Zuo watch the compet.i.tion as well as the tragedies that occurred one after another. On the battlefield, change in advantage of all kinds were fleeting. In a fight between martial artists, there often wasn't enough time for one to simply stop. Sometimes, he was unwilling to stop, or he deliberately went for the killing blow. Indeed, there were some martial artists who conceded defeat in advance and left the battlefield. However, there were also many who didn't have time to forfeit, or surrendered a little too late. These living, breathing people were beaten to death!
Hearts were pierced, guts were scrambled, heads were smashed open like watermelons. There was a constant stream of martial artists with broken arms and ruined limbs, flesh and blood went flying!
Gu Zuo watched a corpse being dragged away, but its leaking blood dyed the ground red. The next martial artists fought on this bloodied ground, and produced even more corpses.
It didn't take long for each and every person's name to pa.s.s through his ears, and then moments later yet another fresh and vibrant life would disappear forever… It was cruel. Truly, it was too cruel.
The social order of this place was obvious. Taking human lives was a cruel matter, but to the eyes of the majority, it was something they were accustomed to.
In this martial arts compet.i.tion, whether if it was someone who already finished or someone who was waiting their turn, there wasn't a single person who flinched away.
The longer Gu Zuo watched, the whiter his face became. He mumbled: “Young master Tianheng, why?”
Weren't all these martial artists cultivated through the Clan's power? Why did beating someone to death here seem no different than casually pulverizing a fruit, not even leaving a single trace? While there were some people who had regret, there was no one who showed too much anger.
Why was it so easy to kill? And why would his patron force him to watch…
After receiving Qi Tianyou's memories, he didn't know where the indignation came from, but it made him think that, if he was able, he must avenge that pitiful saint. However, watching this cruel sight today, he realized that he still thought too highly of himself.
How can killing someone, taking another person's life, be as simple as he imagined?
Tianheng's voice unhurriedly sounded: “Does Ah Zuo know how many people are in my Gongyi Clan? Not counting the people with different surnames, only the children of those with the name “Gongyi.” Can you guess?”
Gu Zuo didn't understand Tianheng's meaning, but nevertheless said: “Maybe a few dozen…”
There were many people at the family gathering, but more than half ought to have different surnames.
Gongyi Tianheng said in a low voice: “Over ten thousand.”
Gu Zuo's eyed widened: “How is that possible?”
Tianheng said: “The Gongyi Clan at the imperial capital is the main family with a direct line of descent. Those who are direct descendants number one hundred ninety eight. The Gongyi Clan has fifty two cadet branches, large and small, distributed in many cities and counties across Cangyun Country. The smaller branches contain a hundred people, and the larger branches contain several hundreds.”
Gu Zuo quickly calculated and was stunned. The numbers really did seem to exceed ten thousand.
This really was a colossal Clan!
Gongyi Tianheng saw him like this, and smiled slightly: “The numbers of people who only have the surname “Gongyi” are many, regardless of whether you include the cadet branches, the auxiliary families, martial artists joining the Clan, or the private squads who've been cultivated from childhood. Ah Zuo, can you imagine the amount of resources spent?”
Gu Zuo held his breath: “Count, countless…”
In any case, the numbers were sure to be astronomical. Moreover, if the source of the funds was insufficient, then every minute would eat away at the Great Clan and drag it towards dest.i.tution!
Gongyi Tianheng's expression was indifferent: “The Clan is unlikely to abandon a clansman. However, a martial artist's lifespan is no less than one hundred fifty years. After three wives and four concubines, the result would be the birth of more and more clansmen. If one wanted to provide for their own people to practice martial arts, there wouldn't be enough resources. Even if there are many low apt.i.tude clansmen who are put in positions of political or economic affairs, the consumption of the remaining martial artists with high apt.i.tude would be prohibitively expensive. And for the Clan to stand firm, one cannot renounce its clansmen's cultivation. The Clan needs the most powerful martial artists to be its stabilizing force. What's more, accommodated martial artists from outside the Clan and the private squads must also be cultivated.”
He paused: “So…we need to eliminate some people.”
He said everything very clearly. Gu Zuo abruptly understood.
Tianheng continued: “Since before I knew when, the Five Clans reached an agreement. The Clan War was used to encourage the younger generations to fight in battle. The number of victors determined the distribution of some benefits. At the same time, this martial arts compet.i.tion would eliminate those who, although they may have high apt.i.tude, also have bad luck or poor battle senses. Although it's very cruel, it's what's necessary for the sake of the Clan's continuation. Any who bring honor to the Clan are rewarded, and for a household, a rising tide lifts all boats . And for a martial artist who dies, the household can obtain financial support to smoothly live half a lifetime.”
Gu Zuo slowly took a breath.
He was aware of his patron's meaning… No wonder those martial artists seemed to be so used to it.
Tianheng saw him listening, and the corner of his mouth hooked up: “As for why I made Ah Zuo watch carefully, Ah Zuo still hasn't realized?”
Gu Zuo shook his head, then nodded again. In a quiet voice, he said: “I'm not a martial artist.”
He's a pharmacist, nothing more. He didn't need to kill people with his own hands…
Gongyi Tianheng laughed in spite of himself: “You definitely aren't going to go fight people; rather, you must get used to watching it all. Otherwise, if you're caught off guard, I'm afraid that you won't react in time.”
Gu Zuo understood.
Adapt first to avoid being weak-kneed at a critical moment and hesitating, right?
…His patron's training style was still really incredible. It nearly made him p.i.s.s himself!
Afterwards, although Gu Zuo's face was still deathly pale, the vomiting sensation gradually left. He realized that he was already getting used to it. It seemed like…he had no choice but to get used to it.
The martial arts compet.i.tion advanced very quickly. The group “Thirty years and under, of the Blood Refining rank” was approaching the end.
At the moment, Gu Zuo had a bit of ridicule in his heart. He thought about that betrayed Qi Tianyou's sc.u.mmy Bai Wenjun. He reached Blood Refining stage three at twenty two years old and seemed talented to the Qi Family. This group here was basically all Blood Refining stage three; the oldest were at most a couple years older than Bai Wenjun, and the youngest were all twelve or thirteen years old. Shouldn't that Bai Wenjun just be thrown into a smelly sewer?  That guy was still talented, huh? The people of the Qi Family and Bai Family were truly frogs at the bottom of the well! 
After silently roasting them, Gu Zuo felt a little better.
After the group finished competing, he followed his patron and returned to their place to settle down.
The first day of the compet.i.tion ended.
Finally, in Tianheng's terrace, Gu Zuo was once again bustling around to stew… That's not right, he was refining medicinal cuisine for his patron to eat. He was so busy that day that he was able to tamp down a ball of frustration in his heart, which gradually dissipated.
After refining two cauldrons, his frame of mind was already completely healed.
It was just that Gu Zuo knew his impressions of his patron were already different.
Not to say that his patron was bad, rather… En, super scary.
By the time it was the second day, the group “Fifty years and under, of the Bone Forging rank” had started their compet.i.tion.
Gu Zuo unexpectedly discovered that his patron's eldest younger brother, Gongyi Tianyang, was part of this group.
Was he going to be so cruelly eliminated?
Gu Zuo was a little worried, and wanted to ask his patron.
But before he could ask, he heard the voice of Gongyi Mingxia, sitting beside him: “Second brother can't break through Bone Forging third stage. I hope this time will be good…”
 水涨船高 - Shui zhang chuan gao, an aphorism where improvements in a general economy benefit all who partic.i.p.ates in that economy. In other words, a martial artist who succeeds in this compet.i.tion would be improving his own lot in life as well as the lives of his whole family.
 This sentence was hard for me to translate, especially with the strange use of 比. If anyone understands this, please let me know so I can learn.
 井底之蛙 - Jing di zhi wa, a fable which means that a person couldn't see or refused to see the bigger picture because they're sheltered or closed-minded.
T/N: Ah, Tianheng, why are your lines as long as paragraphs?
And thank you to user Charysa for the helpful advice!
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